Academic journal article Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice

Entrepreneurial Studies: The Dynamic Research Front of a Developing Social Science

Academic journal article Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice

Entrepreneurial Studies: The Dynamic Research Front of a Developing Social Science

Article excerpt

Entrepreneurship research has been built upon a historical foundation grounded in economic change. To understand the development of the field, it is useful to understand the motivations and interests of key scholars and to trace the linkages between these scholars and other authors, from the transient to the contributor. This has been done through a bibliometric analysis of research articles cited between 1982 and 2004.

Entrepreneurship has developed from a subdiscipline of management studies reliant on alien terms and cognitive methods toward a separate field with increasing complexities of its own. While not fully mature, entrepreneurship shows all the signs of a maturing field from its increasingly internal orientation and the establishment of key areas of research through to an enhanced, discipline-specific, theoretical approach with a professional language of its own.


The Emerging Field of Entrepreneurship Research

Entrepreneurship is a relatively new field of research that has gained extensive interest beyond the usual areas of management studies during the last few decades. In the 1970s and 1980s, we experienced huge structural changes in society worldwide, e.g., oil crises, economic recessions, technical progress, an increasing internationalization of economies, and far-reaching political changes emphasizing stronger market-oriented ideologies. These changes created a level of uncertainty and disequilibrium that constituted a breeding ground for innovation and entrepreneurship. It was in this context that the interest in entrepreneurship research grew. Thus, the field of entrepreneurship, as a disciplinary research field, is not more than 25 years old, but has developed substantially over that short period of time.

Many scientific theorists have discussed how new academic fields are created and how they develop. Focusing on the cognitive aspects of this development, Hansson (1993) found two approaches to knowledge creation, the "technical" and the "theoretical." Young fields of research, he suggests, are characterized by a technical approach, the researchers focusing their attention on the object of study (as opposed to theories and methodologies) in a search for knowledge that can be applied in a practical situation. Much of the research is empirical; the aim is primarily to achieve a broad understanding of the study object. However, due to the lack of a conceptual platform, the knowledge is rather fragmented. According to Hansson, mature fields, on the other hand, display a strong theoretical approach to knowledge where immediate applicability is of less importance. This research is often speculative; similar to basic research in the sciences, the aim is to generate new understandings through theoretical musing and the testing of hypotheses. The aim in mature disciplines is to understand, explain, and even predict the future response of the object of study rather than to simply describe it.

Following the reasoning of Hansson, entrepreneurship research has applied a technical approach to knowledge generation for many years, describing the phenomenon of entrepreneurship and utilizing a strongly empirical approach. However, the research focus shifted, over time, from areas such as the determination of the psychological characteristics of entrepreneurs toward an assessment of the behavioral and cognitive aspects of the entrepreneur with an increased emphasis on context and on the entrepreneurial process. The quality of the empirical research in entrepreneurship has improved (Chandler & Lyon, 2001), and some researchers have introduced theoretical perspectives, such as the evolutionary approach or the resource-based view, to further their understanding of the discipline (Davidsson, Low, & Wright, 2001). Thus, we believe that the current state of entrepreneurship research is somewhere between the technical or applied, and the theoretical or mature approach to knowledge development. …

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